Raggedly Rich

Canadian Finances, Musings, and Art

Why You Shouldn’t Fall For False Advertising, feat. the North American House Hippo

There’re two PSA’s in Canada I remember growing up with, with the utmost fondness.

The first one is ‘Don’t You Put It In Your Mouth’, the words to which every 20-something Canadian child should know the chorus to. “You could get sick (ick!) – real quick! (ICK!) – real sick, real ICK!”

The second is the famous to Canada ‘North American House Hippo’, a PSA that came out in the 90s to help children realize that false advertising was something that happened, and to help them understand that you couldn’t believe everything you saw on television, no matter how real it looked.

(I’m still really sad that the House Hippo actually isn’t a real thing)

What’s this got to do with personal finance?

Don’t believe everything you hear or see, no matter how real it looks.

The mentality of the Joneses is prevalent in our culture. But just because someone has a fancy, new car, doesn’t mean they actually have a fancy, new car. According to CBC, in December 2016, “average Canadian now owes $22,081 in consumer debt, a figure that doesn’t include any mortgages” (check out the article here). I’m of the firm belief that a credit card is like a debit card – you pay it off each month in full, or you shouldn’t be using it.

The most interesting thing about this article, is that people without debt, and people paying down their debt, are continuing to do just that. The people who have debt are increasing the amount of debt they have by enough to change the whole bell curve. Which means that there’s a lot of people out there who can’t actually afford the lifestyle they have, they just look like they can.

Beware of those people. It’s not sustainable, and in my opinion, it’s not desirable.

To be fair though, there is ‘good’ debt. But the figures in that article didn’t include mortgages; it specifies ‘consumer debt’.

But even good debt, like mortgages and student loans, need to be acquired with purpose and intention. Good debt needs to be a calculated investment, something that fits with your lifestyle, with what you want in your future. Going to University won’t automatically get you a high-paying job; your intention and follow-through with that degree, will get you that job.

There is no get-rich-quick scheme.

Unless, of course, you’ve got a trust fund, or a huge inheritance. But for the average guy or gal, making money is going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take a lot of intent and focus, and sometimes it’s going to feel like it’s never going to happen.

You can 100% get rich. But you probably won’t be able to do it fast. The people you hear and see getting rich fast are the exception, not the standard. And yeah, if they can do it, so can you; but putting unrealistic expectations on yourself is a recipe for disaster. Slow and steady wins the race – Tortoise Happy named their blog for exactly that reason!

And if you’re not enjoying the journey, what’s the point? If it’s just a means to an end, how you know what to do when you get to that end?

Don’t become complacent and take things at face value. Be critical. Be thoughtful. Do your research, and be honest about yourself and the things you want out of life. No two people are the same. No two people have the same priorities. My ideal life will not be ideal for anyone else but me.

As much as I want the North American House Hippo to be real, it’s just a red herring at the end of the day.

When did you realize that things weren’t always what they looked like? Was it money-related, or otherwise related?


  1. Oh my gosh, I completely forgot about the house hippo until I watched that video again! Flashbacks of childhood!

    Keeping up with the Jones’ can be so detrimental to your financial well-being but it’s also really hard to combat. For me, it’s not so bad around my friends because most of us are in a similar situation. I find it’s the biggest challenge around co-workers because there’s a much bigger pay discrepancy between us…and not everyone realizes that.

    • Ms. Raggedly Rich

      July 18, 2017 at 1:26 am

      Isn’t it just the greatest?! Many a children were crushed by it’s non-existence.

      Peer pressure and that constant comparison is so hard. I find myself slipping into the ‘maybe it /would/ be nice to have [insert item]’ mentality sometimes… it is hard to avoid. I find work and the routine of eating out the worst; sometimes I miss the social aspect, and it feels like you’re getting punished for thinking ahead and not wanting to spend money!

  2. That commercial is hilarious! I would have believed it as a kid. Torn up the carpets looking for my house hippo. My nickname for Jared is Mr. Hippo but I don’t call him that on the blog because it would just confuse everyone…also I would not want to be called Mrs. Hippo, cause yeah…

    When I was little I thought everyone owned their house and owned their car. I didn’t believe it when someone said the bank owns the house. I thought the only way to buy a house is with cash.

    • Ms. Raggedly Rich

      July 18, 2017 at 1:35 am

      I’m so glad that the House Hippo is a thing for you now :’) And now I’m imagining Jared having a stand-off with a cat, and it’s amazing.

      I feel like I also felt that too, to a degree – I knew what money was, but your house was just your house, right? Of course it was yours, what did the bank have to do with it? The thing that really shocked me when I learnt about it was how expensive new cars were, and how expensive their maintenance could be. It still blows my mind, after a lifetime of just paying for discount / internet parts and (sometimes) keeping my Dad company while he did the work on them.

  3. I did a fist pump when you mentioned “There is no get-rich-quick scheme.” YES. I feel like there are so many people who are involved with pyramid schemes or not-well-researched house flipping businesses because they’re desperate to bypass the hard work. Unfortunately for most of us, we have to save regularly, make sacrifices, and be wise about investments. Great post!

    • Ms. Raggedly Rich

      July 24, 2017 at 10:00 pm

      Right!? So many people get sucked into the ideal of the framework without realizing all the little steps it takes to get to the end picture – that were usually conveniently left out…

      Don’t laugh, but I actually did suggest to my Dad that we start a house-flipping business 😛 But we’ve developed basements and completely renovated houses before. And it’s not just something you can jump into as a business! The shows make it look so easy, and while the end product is satisfying, there’s a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ work you don’t see.

      Thanks for stopping by Ying! Great comment!

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